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Thursday, December 12

Apotheke is a what?

One of the first things we do with guests is a walking tour of the old city, inside the walls, Altstadt. And each time, we fall in love with Nürnberg all over again. There’s a new hidden gem that I haven’t seen or discovered before. We both are lucky to have the opportunity to live here and call it home.

In addition to the gems, the city is massed with Apothekes. Apotheke is a drug store in the traditional sense, a pharmacy. They sell over-the-counter medication as well as the doctor’s prescriptions. There are cough drops, runny nose soothers, headache tablets, dry-skin lotion, dandruff shampoo, heavy duty stomach bug relievers and much more. So it’s an American drug store (imagine CVS) as well as the behind the counter pharmacy rolled into one. (without the diapers and hair curlers, there’s DM and Mueller for that.)

What I like about the German Apotheke is a common cold does not require a trip to the doctor’s office because the pharmacists are able to prescribe something that sooths the ailment. One time when I was refilling my prescription a family of four (they looked like tourists with their maps in hand) asked for an ointment for the younger kid that had scraped up his knee. The pharmacist made a recommendation based on what she saw. This is logical because it’s a recommendation from a professional and prevents a trip to the doctor’s office. Another time, I was recovering from a cold that refused to go away and when I went back the second time she recommended a pill in powder form. Once I bought it, she gave me a glass full of water to take my initial dose.

Apothekes prevents self-prescribing; unlike in America where individuals think they know the problem and buy over the counter pills. Also, pharmacists at Apotheke do not fill prescription without a doctor’s note or prescribe hard drugs without prescription so one can’t walk in and ask. In simple words, German culture disproves using prescriptions for simple problems. This is a welcome change from what we’re used to in America where all ailments have one solution, drugs.

A drawback is a doctor would thoroughly check the ailment in an appointment where a pharmacist does not. The other drawback is this reinforces policing the population. Although I don’t like “the idea” of the government or Big Brother telling me what I should and shouldn’t take, I have grown to like it because people can’t self prescribe medications.

What we haven’t figured out is why there are so many Apothekes in such close proximity. There are 4 in walking distance from our apartment. (And those are ones near us.) I joke that although Germans are cautious in taking medicine for simple colds, they must love knowing that a pharmacy is around the corner when that emergency arises.

The idea of pharmacy and prescribing medicine has been around for long time and we learned in a Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg that many Germans chose Pharmacy as profession pre war era. Due to the conditions of the country post war, there were fewer pharmacists until recently.


  1. Spot on. I totally agree! Do all the apotheeks have the same operating hours? I noticed that they rotate hours weekends/nights, and this may help explain why there are so many.

  2. I believe the operating hours do vary, slightly, but most (if not all) close by 8pm weeknights, at the latest. However, I am so used to "everything closes at 8pm and almost nothing will be open on Sunday", I don't mind it much anymore.